Disastrous opening day for Terminal 5

Heathrow's new £4.3 billion showcase terminal suffered a disastrous opening day today with flights cancelled, luggage delayed and long queues.

A succession of teething problems with the new Terminal 5 (T5) led to the sort of problems all too familiar at the west London airport.

The airport's operator, BAA, and airline British Airways, for whom the new terminal has been built after years in the planning, had hoped that the new facility would mean a fresh start for Heathrow.

But BA was forced to cancel 34 short-haul and domestic flights and had to admit that despite lots of rehearsals there had been a problem with "staff familiarisation with the terminal".

One problem seemed to follow another after the day had got off to a good start with the first flight arriving from Hong Kong eight minutes early at 4.42am.

First, staff had problems with the car park, then a computer problem led to some departing flights having to leave with no luggage aboard.

Downstairs in the giant building, passengers off the first Hong Kong flight all got their bags in quick time.

But soon it was clear there were major problems with baggage reclaim, with some passengers having to wait as long as two-and-a-half hours to collect their cases.

By lunch time the knock-on affect of all the problems lead BA to cancel 20 flights - a figure which later increased to 34.

In early afternoon, a huge, snaky queue of more than 100 people wound back from the cancellation flights desk as people lined up to try to get away on other flights or get refunds.

To add to the difficulties the luggage belt in one part of the departure lounge failed and passengers were moved further down to a workable area.

Some of those arriving early at the airport were quick to praise the magnificence of the new building which had been officially opened two weeks ago by the Queen.

But even from early morning, some passengers were moaning. They said that the road signs were not clear outside the terminal and that they were given wrong directions once inside.

British Airways said that teething problems had included "car parking provision, delays in staff security screening and staff familiarisation with the terminal".

The airline added: "We have also had some baggage performance issues."

Record production impresario Sir George Martin, famous for his work with The Beatles, was among those caught up in the difficulties. He and his wife, Lady Martin, had arrived around two hours before their flight to Zurich only to find it was over-booked.

Sir George said: "When I came here I was very excited about the new terminal, but not now."

The couple were eventually helped by a BA staff member who was able to finally get them away on their flight after all.

Some passengers were downright angry. Kate Adamson, 39, travelling from Frankfurt with her daughter Olivia, five, walked out of the baggage reclaim without her luggage after failing to reconnect with her bags after 90 minutes.

Mrs Adamson, who was visiting her parents in Maidenhead, Berkshire, said: "I am furious. Staff have been really surly. I've given up. They can send my bags on to me."

Passengers stuck in the baggage reclaim area complained that there were no announcements or that they were merely told there was a "technical problem".

Insurance broker Michael Barnfield, travelling in from Miami with his son Charles, was among those who had a two-hour wait for luggage. Visibly angry, he said: "First we spent ages on the tarmac and then we walked through a filthy corridor before getting a coach to the terminal.

"Then we had 40 minutes to get through immigration followed by an hour waiting for our bags. I know there are teething problems, but gee."

In the long queue for those who had missed or cancelled flights were retired university lecturer Walter Henry, 66, from Holloway, north London, and his wife Helen.

Mr Henry said he'd arrived in good time for a flight to Basle only to be "given six different directions from six different people to the departure lounge".

Having missed their flight the couple were hoping to get away later today.

The first flight had as its commander Captain Lynn Barton, 51, who was BA's first ever woman pilot.

Passengers on the first Hong Kong flight received special mementoes of the day as did those on the first departing flight from T5, which pushed off the stand on time at 6.20am bound for Paris.

The first passenger to arrive at the terminal - for that Paris flight - was Paul Walker, 31, a Nairobi-based Briton.

He was greeted at the terminal by BA chief executive Willie Walsh who had also seen in the Nairobi opening flight. Mr Walker said he had been "thoroughly impressed" with T5.

The first person off the initial Hong Kong flight was Clare Hammond, 44, from Greenwich, south London, who described it as a "momentous occasion" adding that BA had "really made every effort".

BA tonight stressed the 34 cancellations was out of 380 flights taking off and landing at T5 on its opening day.

The airline also felt that it was important to bear in mind that there had been a huge operation overnight moving much of BA's Heathrow operation into the new terminal.

The big disappointment for the airline, and for BAA, will be the baggage problems today, especially as both companies had trumpeted the sophisticated nature of the new baggage set-up at T5 which is capable of handling - if all goes well - 12,000 bags an hour.

BA also stressed that no amount of rehearsals and dummy runs can really replicate a working day with real passengers, real planes and real luggage.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tv

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Float Teacher needed in the Vale

£100 - £110 per day + Travel scheme plus free professional trainnig: Randstad ...

Science Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Are you a qualified secondary...

KS2 Float Teacher required in Caerphilly

£100 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme plus free professional training: Randstad ...

Science Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Are you a qualified secondary...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week